Sunday 18 March 2018

250,000 take to Brazilian streets in fresh round of protests

Anti riot police officers fire rubber bullets in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Anti riot police officers fire rubber bullets in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Oliver Duggan

A fresh round of protests in Brazil has seen more than 250,000 people take to the street and new clashes despite government attempts to settle the unrest.

The wave of demonstrations, which began in opposition to rising transportation costs but has since evolved to focus on political corruption and World Cup spending, are the largest protests Brazil has seen in two decades.


Official estimates say up to 250,000 protesters gathered again yesterday to campaign against a proposed law that would limit the power of federal prosecutors to investigate corruption, causing pockets of damage.


While largely peaceful protests continued in dozens of Brazilian cities on Saturday, including Sao Paulo conflicts broke out between protesters and police in Salvador and  Belo Horizonte, the two cities hosting Confederations Cup matches.


An estimated 60,000 gathered in the latter, where police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.  It was reported that violence began when a group tried to break through a perimeter set by the police and the National Guard around the Mineirao stadium, where Mexico was playing Japan.


Thousands of fans had to wait to leave the stadium as mounted police attempted to contain protesters, local reports said.


Meanwhile, in Salvador, clashes continued during host Brazil's match against Italy. Protesters gathered three miles (5km) from the stadium, shouting demands for better schools and transportation and denouncing heavy spending on next year's World Cup.


They blocked a main road and clashed with riot police who moved in to clear the street. Protesters said police used rubber bullets and tossed tear gas canisters from a helicopter hovering overhead.


The renewed violence casts doubts over President Rousseff attempt to bring an end to days of demonstrations by announced several reforms on Friday.


In the televised address, she said the government had held an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the unrest and wanted to talk to those organising the rallies in the hope of tackling their grievances.


However, local media reports another mass demonstration is expected in Rio de Janeiro on Monday as people remain determined to force more widespread political reform.


Football governing body Fifa has strongly rejected Brazilian media speculation that the remainder of the Confederations Cup could be cancelled despite protesters targeting matches on Saturday.

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